26 November 2014
Portrait of the Artist's Wife, Ada Lazo, signed and dated 1958.
Oil on canvas, laid on panel, 75 by 50.5 cm.
Provenance: Collection of the artist’s wife, A.S. Lazo, Leningrad, until 1993.
Thence by descent.
Collection of A.A. Saltykova (Lazo), St Petersburg.
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner.
Private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by A.A. Lazo (inscription on the reverse).
Authenticity has also been confirmed by the experts T. Levina and T. Mikhienko.
Literature: V. Petrov, Vladimir Vasilievich Lebedev, 1891–1967, Leningrad, Khudozhnik RSFSR, 1972, p. 240, illustrated, incorrectly dated 1954; p. 266, listed under works from 1958.
Vladimir Lebedev, perhaps one of the most striking painters of the Soviet era, is represented here by a remarkable portrait of his wife, Ada Lazo. Lebedev’s work travelled a long way from Constructivist compositions to Post-Impressionist portraits and sensitively rendered nudes. He was repeatedly accused of formalism, “alien” bourgeois influences and an unwillingness to create genre paintings on Soviet themes. However, his talent was so great that his contemporaries could marvel at the diversity of his creative pursuits – from the exploration of formal technique, to his study of female beauty and his work as a children’s book illustrator – and even willingly overlook the shortcomings, by Soviet standards, of his behaviour. It was while working for the Soviet children’s book publisher, Detgiz, that Lebedev met Ada Lazo, daughter of the revolutionary hero, Sergei Lazo. Ada, the chief editor, had an excellent knowledge of literature and was a specialist in children’s book illustration. She was to become Lebedev’s wife, friend and muse of many years.
Lebedev painted this portrait in his usual soft pastel tones. The restraint in the colour and mobility of the brushstrokes are reminiscent of early Renoir, whom the artist idolised and viewed as a source of inspiration. But meticulous respect for drawing is not always characteristic of the French Impressionists, whereas delicate emphasis of form is a particular hallmark of Lebedev’s style. At the same time, the colour accents of the yellow chiffon collar and the book in the sitter’s hand remind us of Lebedev’s refined taste as a colourist, his ability to manage the pictorial spot of colour, which sets the overall tone of a work.
Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.